The second season of Gotham concluded on two notes: more suspension of disbelief and a huge plot device.
There will be spoilers from here on out.
We find out a few things about the main characters that will help define the Batman universe at least until the end of the shows run. Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is taking the Rocky Balboa “School of Fighting” and seeing flashes of his cerebral mindset in the face of adversity. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is finally learning to put family first over duty with his decision to go back to Lee (Morena Baccarin).
As we see the two go through their evolution, we see pretty much Gotham’s way to shoehorn the rest of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, create them in Arkham Asylum under the nefarious Dr. Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong). Strange is definitely the mad scientist extraordinaire, but it’s a bit of a bitter pill to swallow to find out basically they’re redoing much of the origin stories for the villains by inserting their “personas” through programming in existing patients live and dead.
He’s able to reanimate the dead through refining Dr. Victor Fries’ (Nathan Darrow) freezing technology. While all but one of the reanimated lost their memories, Strange implants the new personalities as Gotham’s villains. That means among others, he’s responsible for what maybe is Killer Croc, and Clayface (Brian McManamon).
The other arcs of the season focused on the rise and fall of Theo Galavan (James Frain), one moment as a public figure, the next the Gothic assassin Azrael who was reprogrammed by Strange to kill Gordon, but was originally trying to kill Wayne.
The highlights of the season were Strange, Galavan and Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan). Wong had the mannerisms of Strange down so well and made for a compelling character to finish out the season. I didn’t really like that his plan was essentially a plot device to introduce other villains as a deux ex machina way to conveniently introduce characters without having to address how they came to be in the first place.
I enjoyed the Galavan arc because he is a master manipulator in his rise to mayor in a way that was executed far better than the Penguin was in Batman Returns. Galavan’s confidence and ruthlessness showed how he’s an alpha dog in stripping away the power Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) had. Galavan had the personality to fit House of Cards and there’s far more that could have been done to the character. Azrael looks more like a stone cold killer rather than Batman’s temporary successor during his unfortunately encounter with Bane in the comics in Knightfall. I could have done without the secret society of monks. It would have made it more convenient for the Council to be involved.
Jerome definitely has the chops to the Joker and while his fate given the Strange arc leaves it ambiguous. Monaghan was definitely the highlight early in the season and I suppose given how maniacal the Joker can be they didn’t want to break the show, but it really undercut the show to tease such an iconic character one moment like a slab of meat and then pull the rug out to disappoint fans. This isn’t Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead where they get away with things like this on a weekly basis and retain their base. Stunts like Jerome just alienate the fanbase you’re trying to win over or sustain.
The three other characters of focus: Gordon, Edward Nygma (Corey Michael Smith) and Penguin were a mixed bag. I really wanted to invest in the Gordon character, but his going back and forth bending and twisting his morality every which way is not something is endeared, but rather becoming more of a tired act. I don’t really care if he breaks the line anymore as long as he gets something done. I’m sure casting Michael Chiklis, who regularly broke the law as Vic Mackey on The Shield, as Captain Nathaniel Barnes was something of an irony. Guess they modeled Barnes into the character they want Gordon to be.
When it comes to Nygma, I feel like this is the Batman villain they got right on the money in his progression. Nygma’s paranoia along with his ego and superiority complex makes a perfect combination guided by sociopathic behavior. He also doesn’t fall formulaically into past incarnations of the Riddler character. While riddles becomes quirk of his, he never makes it blatantly obvious or dallies around his actions especially when he tried to frame Gordon for a crime he didn’t commit.
I’m having a hard time figuring out the Penguin. He had not one, but two parents who wanted nothing but the best for him. While they both met tragic fates at different instances this season, it didn’t really feel like the character went anywhere beyond the revenges he carried out. He became more of a just vigilante and got more things accomplished than any other character. No matter what emotional and physical trauma inflicted to his parents and himself, Penguin always went back to the same anti-social ways that defined him as a criminal.
When it comes to the female leads in Barbara (Erin Richards) and Leslie, they fulfilled their roles as primary support for Gordon, but really Leslie was enough. I found the showrunners were just trying to find something for Barbara to do all season, but ended up wasting her and making her a floosy who’s obsessed with Gordon and jealous who insists on putting herself into the love triangle.
I feel bad for the Gotham City Police Department not really because of the ongoing threats or the constant leadership changes. I feel bad at the sheer ignorance from the staff from the show’s two main characters in Gordon and Bullock and how really inept the system is. How are they supposed to wait for Batman to arrive given the constant chaos the city faces and now the inmates of Arkham are free to roam the streets of Gotham? At the rate the show’s going, I expect Gotham to literally implode like the football stadium did in The Dark Knight Rises or hellmouth at the conclusion of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Personally, my hope for season 3 is that there’s a time jump where Gordon does whatever he needs to do with Lee, maybe Barnes or Bullock comes back as captain and we see Bruce more grown up so he can actually start being Proto-Batman after he digs more into his father’s files. Hell, I think it would all pay off if they introduce Ras Al-Ghul to the show to help mentor Bruce. I know it’s asking a lot from the show, but the rate the current criminals will shape up Gotham, I don’t see how it makes any logical sense how Batman can arrive in time to save the city. I can tell you one thing, it would likely be in far worse shape than Gotham was in Batman Begins.